Hero dog Sandbag forced to stay in Iraq despite desperate pleas
Downing Street has rejected pleas for a 'hero' dog who served with British troops in Iraq to be brought back to this country.
Sandbag had been living with military personnel at their base in Um Qasa, near Basra, and was credited with bringing them good luck on patrols. He is rumoured to have survived being shot five times.
However, when the withdrawal of forces was announced, there were fears Sandbag would be put down by the Iraqis or killed by local dogs.
More than 6,000 people signed a petition on the Number 10 website calling for the dog to be given refuge in the UK. Sandbag was also given his own Facebook page.
But his supporters' hopes were finally dashed today when the Government confirmed that Sandbag and his fellow mascot, Hesco the cat, would be staying put.
'The base in Um Qasa where Sandbag and Hesco were living has now been handed over to American forces,' the Downing Street response said.
I can not understand why a hero dog is not allowed to be adopted as an official mascot and brought back to United Kingdom. The cat also, it's a damn shame. Dogs like this go out with patrols, we had some in northern Ireland and they gave warning of pending trouble. I gather the dog has not been called a hero for nothing.
British troops fear for fate of mascot Sandbag the dog who could be killed when they leave Iraq.
Rumour has it that Sandbag the dog has survived being shot five times.
But the British soldiers in Iraq who have adopted him as a camp mascot fear he will not last long after they return to the UK at the end of this month.
They are worried he will be put down by local Iraqis or killed by other dogs when they leave ... :(
A true military dog, he loves helicopters and often follows the troops out on patrol.
He also bears scars from numerous scraps with other dogs and - according to base legend - several bullet wounds.
Captain Guy Myram, the squadron's second in command, said: "Apparently anyone in combats is his master - although he doesn't warm to the Americans so much because they're not wearing the same as us."
Another soldier said: "He's very loyal to the troops - if you get mobbed by other dogs, he will literally fight every single one of them. "He's a Tyson among the pups."
Sandbag was born on the forward operating base at North Port in Umm Qasr about two years ago and quickly endeared himself to the British troops stationed there.
The soldiers have had him vaccinated, given him a collar, and even know to let him into the camp when he barks outside the front gate.
Sandbag is not the only animal to make the base their home. There is also Hesco the cat, named after the sand-filled blast walls on top of which the feline likes to sleep.
The soldiers from the Queen's Royal Hussars, based at Paderborn in Germany, are now trying to work out a way of saving Sandbag when they hand the base over to the Americans at the end of this month.
The men investigated getting the much-loved mascot flown back to Britain, but discovered it would cost several thousand pounds to put him in quarantine.
One soldier joked: "We thought about putting him inside a container of kit back to Germany and throwing in a couple of steaks."
The current plan to take Sandbag to the nearby Umm Qasr Naval Base, where British troops are expected to be stationed until at least 2011.
But it remains to be seen how well he will get on with Jack and Royal, the two dogs who already live at the Royal Navy-led coalition camp on the naval base.